San Rafael with an unrequited love

the last time I was this flustered
I was seven and alone in the checkout line at Target,
Mom somewhere in the back of the store
running to grab paper towels.
waiting by myself, I am red-faced and on the verge of
trying to think of what to say to the cashier
I can barely see over the top of the counter,
how to explain my arrival at the front of the line with no
and no mother.
today, I am blushing that same shade of red
as we walk around the park, but you don’t seem to notice,
too busy pointing to random street signs
trying to test how far I can see without my glasses. the
truth is
I can’t see shit, so I start making up street names
and you laugh
and I feel my heart jerk forward like a conveyor belt,
every muscle in my body pulled in towards that sound.
you tell me you’re slightly colorblind, and it’s weird because
your entire job involves designing things with colors
but in this moment I’m glad:
the red of my cheeks must look gray to you;
at least I’m not the only one blind, or blinded.
in the story, my mom comes back in a minute
and all the things I had planned to say to the cashier
never happen. here, walking in zig-zags with you across
the grass,
I feel I am seven again, the type of anxious
that makes fingertips ache, distracted, and
wholeheartedly guarding all of the things
I know I can’t pay for.

Juliana Chang is a Taiwanese American writer, storyteller, and filmmaker based in the Bay Area. She received a BA in Linguistics and a MA in Sociology from Stanford University in 2019. Juliana is the 2019 recipient of the Urmy/Hardy Poetry Prize, the 2017 recipient of the Wiley Birkhofer Poetry Prize, and a 2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Gold Medalist in Poetry. She works as a Product Content Strategist in San Francisco.